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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

JAKE’S REVOLUTION (article first published : 2008-08-11)

Fresh talent on the Durban theatre scene in the form of Clifford Bryan appears in the very entertaining Jake's Revolution for a short run at the Catalina Theatre. It is produced by him and he also directed it, with assistance from Dhaveshan Govender and David Sherwood. As he wrote the script and the music as well, it is a therefore a one-man show in more ways than one and is a most commendable effort. The show tells the story of Stoffel Jakobus van der Merwe, affectionately known as Stoffeltjie by his mother and ouma, who was brought up on a farm and whose one ambition was to leave the dairy farm and perform as a singer in the big city lights.

Thus begins his life story from the early beginnings in which he displays all-too-brief cameos of his father, mother and grandmother while taking breaks from his gig as a pub singer in Jonny's Pub & Grill where he had his early start. He also takes the audience through the gruelling audition procedure, having realised very early that he would need to change his name - hence the Jake Harrison persona of the act. His musical career continues to be told between the songs in the pub, including his friendship with Max and meeting his girlfriend, Katie, both of whom he also depicts without being over the top.

The songs are his and he has an enjoyable delivery and stage presence. He could have included more songs, and especially more cover versions of other songs if his rendition of There is a House in New Orleans They Call the Rising Sun is anything to go by as it started off hauntingly beautifully although I didn't care for his subsequent change to the more modern "wailing" rendition which is now the fashion in the singing fraternity, both amateur and very professional.

The lighting is excellent and deserves special mention as it is used very effectively, often to change the scene from his gigging to telling his story. The set is simple, using as it does part of the set from the previous Motown Forever! shown at the Catalina Theatre recently.

The story-line of the script is well written but could perhaps include more humorous anecdotes; the odd asides were very nice touches. However, the moments of pathos were beautifully done and contributed considerably to Jake's Revolution and indeed that is how the show gets its title. The title does not refer to a revolution, in the more commonly reference to war, or even in musical terms, as might be inferred from the posters, it instead refers to the content of the play in which the audience is taken through the life of Jakobus van der Merwe, alias Jake Harrison, from farm boy to pub singer to minor singing sensation fronting for the band South of the Sun to pub singer – a full revolution.

Fresh from the Grahamstown Festival, Jake's Revolution appears at the Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf, from August 7 to 17. For more information or bookings, contact Clifford Bryan on 083 589 2261 or Catalina on 031 305 6889. – Maurice Kort




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